Fast and Healthy Bento Box Basics

Bento Lunch Basics

I’m just gonna say it…eating food that’s good for your body and tasty requires a little bit of effort.  And we all know, a little goes a long way!  Over the weekend or while you’re Netflixing on your laptop, go into the kitchen and prepare just a few things at home to keep in the fridge and when you’re ready to go, but that healthy food into a beautiful gem of the box all ready to eat… at work, after the gym or at home! Giving your food…and yourself… some TLC means making your meal a mini-event, a little feast for your eyes and your taste buds! You’ll eat healthier, eat the right amount, and treat yourself to a little food “experience” making you feel more satisfied.

The Bento Box does it all — encourages food variety, portion control, and creativity.  You may think of the bento box used for sushi and Japanese lunch specials, this is the same one but made for travel. It’s perfect for salads, vegetables, fruit and more…warm or cold.  Fits in a tote or workout bag and is ready when you are.

The typical bento has two to four separate compartments providing just the right portion size for your lunch (even has utensils right inside)! I generally like to prepare a salad or two before and store them in the fridge as I eat them over a few days. I also have chopped carrots and celery and sliced zucchini, cucumbers, and all kinds of nuts. All these can fill your box! Just load and go.

I got the idea for Bento packing from Sara Kiyo Popowa’s @shisodelicious beautifully illustrated book, Bento Power.  She had marvelous ideas, beautiful photos.  This is food inspiration. And, I ordered my Bento Box right from Amazon.

One of my favorites is the Golden Roast Squash Bento. It’s colorful, ridiculously easy, and depending on the season, I can use my favorites, sweet potatoes or yams for the squash.  Roasting the squash or sweet potatoes in advance, lets me make enough for more than one meal and to take out whenever! I also used avocado for the cucumber salad, making it a bit creamier!

Preheat oven to 425F Peel and cut (or seed) your squash or sweet potatoes into large 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inch chunks.  She suggests cutting slightly irregular triangles to help them cook faster. Pile the pieces onto a baking sheet and thoroughly coat in oil and salt using your hands. Roast on the highest shelf for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them to continue cooking in the heat for 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let them cool slightly before packing or storing for packing into the Bento later. Store in an airtight container if using some for later.

I pickled my own cabbage according to her recipe and keep it in the fridge as a side for many of my boxes!

Sara’s Simplest Cabbage Quick-Pickle

  • 3 ½ oz. red or white cabbage very firmly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one or buy pre-sliced bagged cabbage)
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Add the ingredients to a plastic bag or small bowl

Place the cabbage in a sturdy plastic bag or bowl.  Add the pickling ingredients to the bag or bowl.  Massage or shake everything together until juicy and softened for a minute or more.  If using a bag, remove all of the air and massage through the bag.  Transfer the cabbage to a glass container with a lid to store in the refrigerator until ready to use. It will last up to a week.

Now, to Assemble the Bento Box:

  • 1 portion short-grain rice or quinoa, the quinoa shown was cooked with a handful of small edamame
  • a handful of mixed salad greens
  • ½ raw beet, preferably Chiaggia beet, very thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons savory granola (recipe to follow) or mixed nuts
  • pink peppercorns and Himalayan sea salt to taste

Arrange the rice or quinoa in one end of your box and make a bed of salad greens in the rest of the space. Arrange the squash, the avocado, and cabbage in separate mounds on top of the leaves and finish with a small mound of savory granola or nuts and season. Close your box, slide into your bento bag (it comes with one), and be sure to include your fork and chopsticks.

And you’ve made a beautiful, healthy, satisfying meal anywhere, anytime.

Check out and @shisodelicious

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